It’s fair to say that many an Arsenal fan has been dreaming of the day their favourite son and all time top scorer returned to North London to don the famous canon on his chest one more time, yet few would have ever actually believed it to happen again. Four and half years on since Thierry Henry set sail for the bright lights of Barcelona in a 16 million pound deal that broke the hearts of many, the signs are that he is coming home again.
Arsenal fans will be delighted and already hoping that he can pick up where he left off, rekindling some of the form that was such a huge part of one of Arsenal’s most successful ever periods. The reality is however that there is a chance, and just a small one, that it may not be the dream deal that everyone imagines it to be. Arsene Wenger will have thought long and hard about whether it is a good idea or not, as he does so scrutinously with every transfer he considers. That the deal is going ahead means for Wenger it is a gamble worth taking.
Putting Henry’s history with Arsenal aside, on the face of it, it is clearly a great deal for the Gunners. Currently they have a striker in Robin van Persie who is, at the moment, unquestionably the best in his position in the country. Aside from that, their only other real options in that area are Marouane Chamakh and Ju-Young Park. Chamakh, without sounding too harsh, appears to offer very little to the team. In recent cameo appearances he has struggled to even register that he is on the pitch. His confidence has completely gone and he is not the same player that forced Wenger to sign him from Bordeux, nor the one that started life quite brightly at the Emirates. Park on the other hand is not proven at this level and the fact Wenger has given him very little chance to prove himself shows he clearly doesn’t trust him to lead the line in games that matter. It has to be said that the Gunners have actually missed Nicklas Bendtner this season as he added an extra dimension to their game from the bench, something which Chamakh certainly can’t offer. Therefore the arrival of a proven world-class goal scorer that has won everything there is to win in the game, will surely only benefit and add much needed depth to the Arsenal squad.
When you add to this that Chamakh will be lost to the African Nations for a month, along with Gervinho, Henry’s arrival suddenly seems a lot more essential. It is actually a perfect move for Wenger as by signing him on-loan for two months, it deals perfectly with the hole in squad as a result of the African Nations and means he wont be forced to spend money on cover, which he may have been put under huge pressure to do so otherwise. Even if Henry is on the bench, where he will surely start until he gets some match fitness, he offers something huge. Arsenal’s bench at the moment just isn’t dangerous enough. No one screams of danger when looking at it and no one will strike fear into the opposition when they come on. The likes of Tomas Rosicky, Andrei Arshavin and Yossi Benayoun are all decent players but none are game changers these days, where as Henry possibly still could be - how Wenger would have loved to call on his talents from the bench in the recent draw against Wolves. The one player who really could make an impact from the bench and frighten a defence is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, yet Wenger, wrongly or rightly, has been very stubborn about including him on the bench week in, week out so not to stunt his progress. Yet while Wenger has admitted it may be time soon for him to get some real match time, Henry’s arrival could ultimately be the thing to stunt the youngster’s progress.
If you were to be critical on Henry’s arrival it could be said that it may disrupt the dressing room and the team’s current harmony that they have recently rebuilt ever so effectively since the 8-2 defeat to Manchester United back in August, after which it was in shatters. Will van Persie still feel like the leader of the team with such an influential character looking over his shoulder? Will the likes of Thomas Vermaelan feel like they have fallen down the pecking order in terms of experience at the club? Will some of the younger players be scared to express themselves on and off the pitch, like those back in Henry’s last season at Arsenal? Even Wenger admitted the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini, and the team as a whole in the 2007-08 season, really came out of their shells after the big man’s departure. To say all this however is both harsh and disrespectful to a footballing and Arsenal legend. He may come back wiser, simply wanting to help out his beloved team by imparting his wisdom to the rest of the team in whichever way he can. The fact that he has been training at the club for a while now means it is not like a stranger just walking into the team. Besides, in his last season at Arsenal he was a frustrated man. The Invincibles were disbanding and watching the club finish fourth two years running, whilst failing to challenge for the title was hard for the passionate Frenchman to watch. These days the goals posts have been moved and if Arsenal can finish fourth this season, considering their horrendous start to their campaign, it will be seen as a success and Henry will strive in his two months at the club to fight for the cause.
One worry for fans, and perhaps for Wenger too, is that the arrival could interrupt van Persie’s fine vein of form. He clearly thrives on being the main man, which can be seen in his goal scoring record since Arsenal have moved to 4-5-1/4-3-3 in which he has led the line on his own. His goals have been the main reason Arsenal have bounced back up the table and were Henry to disrupt this then Arsenal may not be playing Champions League football next season. On the other hand, if Henry still has what it takes then the sight of a partnership between himself and van Persie could be a magical sight. Throw in the pace of Theo Walcott and you’ve got a front three that could cause any defence in the world a problem.
Just imagine if he came back as effective as before, setting alight the Premier League and firing Arsenal up the table. There would then be problem for Arsenal and the New York Red Bulls to sort out after the allotted two months. Yes the move could be viewed as a slight risk if you are being fussy, but there is no doubt the pros well and truly outweigh the cons. I mean the man is one of only three people who have ever lived to have a statue of themselves outside Arsenal’s stadium – how can this move be anything other than a success?